40TH ANNIVERSARY: 1982 - 2022

An investigation and true-crime podcast series from the Chicago Tribune and At Will Media

Unsealed: The Tylenol Murders

In fall 1982, the nation was living in fear. Seven people in the Chicago area had died after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules, and no one knew why or who might be next. Law enforcement quickly determined that the poisoned bottles had been placed on store shelves to kill unsuspecting customers. But who would commit such a heinous act? What was their motive? Those questions would elude investigators for decades.

Award-winning reporters Stacy St. Clair and Christy Gutowski have uncovered new and critical clues in one of the nation’s most infamous unsolved cases. If you think you know the story of the Tylenol murders, think again.

October 1, 1982

The Investigation

This multi-part series published by the Chicago Tribune is an in-depth investigation by veteran investigative reporters Stacy St. Clair and Christy Gutowski of the 1982 Tylenol murders.

Published: Sept. 22, 2022

Movement in the Case

Law enforcement seeks to persuade prosecutors to act on ‘chargeable’ case.

Sept. 22, 2022

Part 1: The First 24 Hours

The story of a 40-year-old unsolved case begins with a terrifying medical mystery.

Sept. 22, 2022

Part 2: The Investigation

Cyanide-laced Tylenol was the murder weapon. But who was the killer?

Sept. 29, 2022

Part 3: A Poisoned Mind

Two Chicago police detectives try to get a Tylenol suspect talking. But in the end, he was released. Then came another death.

Oct. 6, 2022

Part 4: ‘That's Jim Lewis!’

The task force turns its attention to a man with a disturbing past.

Oct. 13, 2022

Part 5: The Hunt for Lewis

Investigators on the Tylenol case launched a manhunt for James Lewis — marking the start of a game of cat and mouse that has lasted for decades.

Oct. 20, 2022

Part 6: The Cold Case

When a woman writing a Tylenol book approached longtime suspect James Lewis, he was eager to help her clear his name. But all was not as it seemed.

Oct. 27, 2022

Tragedy, then Triumph

The fact that Tylenol survived the Tylenol murders is viewed as a shining example of crisis management. But there’s more to the story.

Oct. 27, 2022

A Tylenol Timeline

Seven people in the Chicago area died after taking capsules filled with potassium cyanide. Here’s how the case has unfolded over four decades.

Sept. 22, 2022

The Victims

Profiles of the seven whose lives were cut short by the infamous Chicago-area crime.

Sept. 22, 2022

Map: The Poisoned Bottles

Where eight bottles of tainted Tylenol were purchased or discovered in the Chicago area.

The podcast

Tribune investigative reporters Stacy St. Clair and Christy Gutowski report and narrate an eight-part podcast series:

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EPISODE 1: Sept. 22, 2022

Steak, Flowers, Tylenol

In September 1982, people started dying mysteriously in the Chicago area. The victims seemed to have nothing in common. Until a surprising discovery revealed a much bigger mystery. One that wouldn’t be so easy to solve.

EPISODE 2: Sept. 22, 2022

Turf War

Investigators raced to find out who committed these random crimes and why. But there was something in their way. And the murder toll climbed. Journalists Stacy St. Clair and Christy Gutowski of the Chicago Tribune find something of their own — one piece of the puzzle, hiding in plain sight.

EPISODE 3: Sept. 29, 2022


A week after the killings, investigators had yet to identify any lead suspects. Until the owner of a bar in Chicago made a phone call.

EPISODE 4: Oct. 6, 2022

Gone to the Lake

During the nationwide manhunt, a Kansas City police sergeant unveiled shocking new details about the suspected extortion letter writer. On a flight to Chicago, he brought two suitcases packed with information to share with the Tylenol task force about their suspect. He told investigators the story of a different man. Someone who went missing a few years before the Tylenol murders.

EPISODE 5: Oct. 13, 2022


Back in 1978, the Kansas City police focused on James Lewis as a suspect in a missing person’s case. A serious mistake during an interrogation would come back to haunt them. But in 1982, that investigation provided valuable insight to the Tylenol task force. And it helped end the weeks-long manhunt for the extortion letter writer. Meanwhile, the Chicago Police’s main suspect, Roger Arnold, proved that he was a killer.

EPISODE 6: Oct. 20, 2022

Walking Crime Wave

James Lewis was sentenced to prison for the extortion letter. But no one had been charged with the Tylenol murders. Then the FBI got a message. Lewis wanted to talk and help solve the crime. He gave the investigation a creative twist.

EPISODE 7: Oct. 27, 2022


The top two suspects spent their lives after prison very differently. But it wouldn’t be long before both were caught up in the Tylenol murders investigation again. This time, one was dead. And one was still alive. During an undercover operation, the FBI hoped one suspect would incriminate himself.

EPISODE 8: Oct. 27, 2022

The PowerPoint

For the first time in a decade, there is movement on the Tylenol murders. Investigators traveled to meet with their top suspect in hopes of shoring up the case against him. The Tribune talked to him, too. They outline what evidence investigators say they have against Lewis — and what they don’t. Is the case bulletproof enough for prosecutors and a jury?